Skip to main content

What Do Psychologists Do With Addiction?

Psychologists

Clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), addiction, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex, chronic brain disorder. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.” An individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her cravings (e.g., drugs, sex, gambling, etc.) above all else, which can wreak havoc in every facet of one’s life. Substance use disorder is not developed instantaneously, nor does one’s recovery from addiction occur immediately. In many cases, it is advantageous for individuals struggling with substance abuse and/ or addiction to obtain guidance from a mental health professional.

A psychologist, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic “is a mental health professional who uses psychological evaluations and talk therapy to help people learn to better cope with life and relationship issues and mental health conditions.” There are many different areas in which a psychologist might specialize. Clinical psychologists are qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals experiencing psychological distress and mental illness. When a psychologist is presented with an individual struggling with addiction, it is common practice to develop a customized treatment plan that incorporates one or more therapeutic strategies. Psychologists may perform any combination of the following psychotherapeutic modalities when treating a client with addiction:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and developing personal coping strategies to problem solve effectively.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): utilizes four main strategies (e.g., core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation) for teaching individual’s skills that help with effectively changing their behaviors.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT): focuses on how a person’s communications and interactions with other people affect his or her own mental health.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR): utilizes guided eye movement techniques to help process one’s memories, thoughts, and emotional associations in relation to abusing drugs and/ or alcohol.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI): is a counseling method that helps people resolve ambivalent feelings and insecurities to find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior.
  • Expressive arts therapy (e.g., play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, sand therapy, etc.): provides an alternative medium to express, process, and integrate one’s thoughts and feelings surrounding the recovery process.

To provide an individual with the highest potential for a successful, long-term recovery, a psychologist will consider all treatment options, and incorporate the best possible therapeutic modalities, that are expressly geared to each client’s personal needs.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Are The Six Major Characteristics Of Addictive Behavior?

Addictive Behavior

Addictive behavior is defined by “compulsive drug use despite negative physical and social consequences and the craving for effects other than pain relief.” Addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is defined as a complex condition in which there is an uncontrolled need for a habit-forming substance resulting in harmful physical, psychological, or social effects. An individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her cravings above all else, and as drugs or alcohol become the central focus of one’s life, he or she will demonstrate a preference for these substances over relationships, school, work, and even life itself. Although there are many common characteristics among the various addictive behaviors, the six most prevalent include the following, provided by Medical News Today:

    1. Preoccupation with substance of choice: An individual will become obsessed with and spend increasingly more time and energy thinking of ways to procure more of their substance of choice, other ways they can use it, etc.
    2. Lack of impulse control: An individual will exhibit an inability to delay gratification or to avoid abusing substances despite potential consequences.
    3. Engages in risky behavior: An individual may take risks to obtain the substance (e.g., trading sex for drugs, stealing to pay for illicit drugs, etc.). While under the influence of certain substances, a person may engage in risky activities (e.g., violence, reckless driving, etc.).
    4. Withdrawal: When a substance that one’s body has become accustomed to functioning with is absent or has less of the substance in his or her system, it will be unable to function optimally, and withdrawal symptoms will ensue. Withdrawal is defined as “a negative reaction to the cessation of a substance, thing, or behavior an individual has become dependent upon.” Symptoms of withdrawal can range from emotional to physical and based on a variety of factors, will differ in severity and duration.
    5. Inability to stop: Despite a person’s serious attempts to give up their addiction, they are unable to stop abusing drugs.
  • Secrecy and denial: A person may become disinterested in spending time with others, as they prefer using substances alone, in secret. They may choose to give up and no longer participate in previously enjoyed pastimes with family and/ or friends. Though an individual may be aware of the presence of a physical dependence, they will often deny or refuse to accept the need for treatment, maintaining they are fully capable of stopping use on their own, anytime they wish.

 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Triggers A Person With Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists ten standalone personality disorders based on similar characteristics, and each personality disorder is grouped into one of three categories (cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C). Borderline personality disorder (BPD) belongs to cluster B, which is characterized by “dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” More specifically BPD is characterized by “a pervasive pattern of instability and hypersensitivity in interpersonal relationships, instability in self-image, extreme mood fluctuations, and impulsivity.” Individuals with a borderline personality disorder often struggle with relationship issues, lack self-esteem, have a poor self-image, and have an inability to appropriately self-regulate. A borderline personality disorder is not an uncommon disorder, as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) estimates that 1.4% of the adult population in America experience BPD.

Risk Factors

The exact cause of borderline personality disorder remains unknown. There are, however, several contributing factors that have been recognized as possibly playing a role in its development, potentially increasing one’s susceptibility to BPD. These factors may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Environmental factors: growing up in an unstable, neglectful, and/ or abusive environment could increase one’s risk of developing BPD.
  • Genetics: people with a family history (e.g., parent, sibling, etc.) with BPD may be at increased risk of developing a borderline personality disorder. Psychology Today asserts that BPD is approximately five times more common among people with close biological relatives with BPD.
  • Brain factors: some studies have indicated that individuals diagnosed with BPD have structural and/ or functional abnormalities, specifically in the areas of the brain that reign emotional regulation and impulse control. Furthermore, deviations from typical serotonin (hormone that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) production could increase one’s vulnerability to BPD.

There is no definitive medical test to diagnose borderline personality disorder. The diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5 indicate that to be clinically diagnosed with BPD an individual must experience five or more symptoms, in a variety of contexts.

BPD Triggers

A trigger, in the context of BPD typically refers to something that precipitates the exacerbation of one’s BPD symptoms. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that “triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk.” While BPD triggers can vary from person to person, there are some types of triggers that are more common in BPD, such as the following examples:

  • Perceived or real abandonment
  • Rejection of any kind
  • Loss of a job
  • Locations that invoke negative memories
  • Reminders of traumatic events
  • Ending a relationship

Many borderline personality disorder triggers arise from interpersonal distress. The symptoms that manifest because of borderline personality disorder often mimic those of other mental health disorders (e.g., histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar personality disorder, etc.). BPD symptoms pervasively interfere with an individual’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life.

 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, or give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

How To Get Rid Of Addiction To Alcohol

Rid of Addiction To Alcohol

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.” Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic alcoholism is characterized by a “pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.” Individuals that are addicted to alcohol will prioritize satisfying alcohol cravings above all else, which can wreak havoc in all facets of one’s life, including causing physical complications, relationship fractures, financial strain, legal problems, and more. If left untreated, alcoholism can lead to severe short- and long-term physical and psychological effects, and in some cases death.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options for an individual struggling with alcoholism. The first step to overcoming alcohol addiction is to undergo detox. Detox is the process that cleanses one’s body of all foreign substances. Due to some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms that commonly present when detoxing from alcohol abuse, it is advised to undergo a medically supervised detox to ensure one’s safety throughout the process. After an individual has successfully completed detox, depending on the needs of the individual, continuing the recovery process by attending a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program may be recommended.

Formal substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment programs provide customized recovery plans that are developed to incorporate the best possible treatment methods which are specifically geared to address each person’s nuanced needs. An alcohol addiction treatment plan may be comprised of different types of therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy (e.g., play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, sand therapy, etc.), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and more. To further improve one’s overall health and wellbeing, treatment plans could also include refining one’s daily habits (e.g., practicing mindfulness techniques, exercising regularly, developing healthy sleeping habits, eating nutritiously, etc.). Some may benefit from integrating certain medications into one’s treatment plan. For example, Vivitrol (generically known as naltrexone) is a prescription medicine that was originally approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 to be used for the treatment of alcohol dependence.

 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

Am I Addicted To Alcohol?

am i addicted to alcohol

Alcohol was legalized in America in the 1930s, and since then there are many people who drink alcohol regularly, without any problems. However, there are also many individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse and addiction. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Alcoholism, also known as addiction to alcohol or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains that “alcohol use disorder is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” There are several warning signs that can be indicative of alcohol addiction. Individuals that are addicted to alcohol will prioritize satisfying alcohol cravings above all else.

Quiz: Am I An Alcoholic?

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) is a 10-item questionnaire that “is a simple and effective method of screening for unhealthy alcohol use, defined as risky or hazardous consumption or any alcohol use disorder.” It was published in 1989 and was based on a multinational collaborative study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). To answer the following questions accurately please note the definition of one standard drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, includes one of 12 ounces of regular beer with approximately 5% alcohol content; 8 – 9 ounces of malt liquor with approximately 7% alcohol content; 5 ounces of unfortified wine with approximately 12% alcohol content; 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor with approximately 40% alcohol content.

  1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
    1. Never (score 0)
    2. Monthly or Less (score 1)
    3. 2-4 times a month (score 2)
    4. 2-3 times a week (score 3)
    5. 4 or more times a week (score 4)
  2. How many alcoholic drinks do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?
    1. 1 or 2 (0)
    2. 3 or 4 (1)
    3. 5 or 6 (2)
    4. 7-9 (3)
    5. 10 or more (4)
  3. How often do you have 6 or more drinks on one occasion?
    1. Never (0)
    2. Less than monthly (1)
    3. Monthly (2)
    4. Weekly (3)
    5. Daily or almost daily (4)
  4. How often during the past year have you found that you drank more or for a longer time than you intended?
    1. Never (0)
    2. Less than monthly (1)
    3. Monthly (2)
    4. Weekly (3)
    5. Daily or almost daily (4)
  5. How often during the past year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of your drinking?
    1. Never (0)
    2. Less than monthly (1)
    3. Monthly (2)
    4. Weekly (3)
    5. Daily or almost daily (4)
  6. How often during the past year have you had a drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?
    1. Never (0)
    2. Less than monthly (1)
    3. Monthly (2)
    4. Weekly (3)
    5. Daily or almost daily (4)
  7. How often during the past year have you felt guilty or remorseful after drinking?
    1. Never (0)
    2. Less than monthly (1)
    3. Monthly (2)
    4. Weekly (3)
    5. Daily or almost daily (4)
  8. How often during the past year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because of your drinking?
    1. No (0)
    2. Yes, but not in the past year (2)
    3. Yes, during the past year (4)
  9. Has a relative, friend, doctor, or health care worker been concerned about your drinking, or suggested that you cut down?
    1. No (0)
    2. Yes, but not in the past year (2)
    3. Yes, during the past year (4)

Your score: Add up the points associated with the answers. A total score of 8 or more indicates harmful drinking behavior. If you scored 8-10 or higher, there is a significant possibility you are addicted to alcohol, and it may be advantageous to pursue professional support.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, or give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

There are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and each is categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. They are serious mental illnesses that are loosely characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, and health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), an estimated 30 million U.S. adults will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. If left untreated, continued malnutrition that occurs with an untreated eating disorder can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. The best way to help someone with an eating disorder is to be able to recognize its warning signs and ultimately encourage them to pursue treatment.

Treatment

Every individual is different, and each person will require a tailored treatment plan to ensure all nuanced needs are met. The treatment plan for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as one’s exact diagnosis, how long he or she has been actively engaging in unhealthy eating habits, his or her personal health history, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders. Depending on one’s needs, an eating disorder treatment plan could include any combination of the following components:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Can be used to help an individual break unhealthy behavioral patterns associated with his or her eating disorder by identifying and replacing dysfunctional patterns.
  • Medications:
  • Anorexia nervosa: The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has yet to approve any medication specifically for the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
      • Bulimia nervosa: The only medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of bulimia nervosa is the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) known as Prozac (generically: fluoxetine).
      • Binge-eating disorder: The first medication the FDA approved as a treatment for the binge-eating disorder is called Vyvanse (generically: lisdexamfetamine). Antidepressants such as SSRIs (e.g., Prozac) could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of binge eating episodes. Anticonvulsant medications, such as Topiramate, could be prescribed to reduce the frequency of bingeing episodes.
  • Nutritional counseling: To facilitate weight restoration and body-weight management.
  • Medical care and/ or medical monitoring: To minimize and mitigate possible medical complications that can arise from eating disorders.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT can benefit an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder by helping to foster self-management skills, lower stress, reduce anxiety, and learn to control destructive eating behaviors. DBT promotes acceptance and teaches individuals how to live in the present moment and cope with emotional triggers that may otherwise perpetuate unhealthy symptoms and behaviors associated with eating disorders.

The goal of treatment for an individual diagnosed with an eating disorder is to help them find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage their symptoms.

 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Are The Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder?

personality-disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, mental health disorder. It is a complex psychological condition that is characterized by pervasive instability in moods, emotions, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships which interfere with one’s ability to function in everyday life. It can be difficult to determine who will develop borderline personality disorder as the cause of BPD remains unknown. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) alludes to research that “suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk for developing borderline personality disorder.” BPD typically develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset.

Symptoms & Diagnostic Criteria

Borderline personality disorder directly affects how one feels about him or herself, one’s behavior as well as how an individual can relate to others. It is not uncommon for people with BPD to feel extremely intense emotions for extended periods of time. This makes returning to a stable emotional baseline far more challenging, especially after experiencing an emotionally triggering event. According to the DSM-5 key signs and symptoms of BPD may include:  

  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation, sometimes referred to as splitting
  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by family and friends
  • Impulsive behaviors resulting in dangerous outcomes (e.g., engaging in unsafe sex, reckless driving, abuse of drugs, etc.)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, affecting one’s moods, relationships, goals, values, and/ or opinions
  • Self-harming behavior (e.g., suicidal threats)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/ or boredom
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability and/ or anxiety lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days long
  • Dissociative feelings
  • Intense, inappropriate, and/ or uncontrollable anger, typically followed by feelings of guilt and/ or shame

More specifically, the diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5, indicates that to be clinically diagnosed with BPD an individual must experience five or more of the following symptoms, in a variety of contexts,

  1. Emotional instability
  2. Feelings of emptiness
  3. Efforts to avoid abandonment
  4. Impulsive behaviors
  5. Identity disturbances
  6. Inappropriate, irrational and/ or intense bouts of anger
  7. Transient paranoid and/ or dissociative symptoms
  8. Unstable interpersonal relationships
  9. Suicidal and/ or self-harming behaviors

Due to the quick changing nature of signs and symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder, it is notoriously known as a difficult to diagnose illness. The treatment for BPD often includes long-term participation in psychodynamic models of psychotherapy such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT was developed by Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s, as a means to more effectively treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. It is an evidence-based psychotherapy that combines techniques from western cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psycho-educational modules, and eastern mindfulness-based practices to foster the systematic learning of new emotional coping skills. Since its inception, dialectical behavior therapy has been and remains the gold standard method of treatment for individuals diagnosed with BPD.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

Main Cause Of Borderline Personality Disorder?

personality-disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) list ten standalone personality disorders based on similar characteristics, and each personality disorder is grouped into one of three categories (cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C). Borderline personality disorder (BPD) belongs to cluster B, which according to the Mayo Clinic are “characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior.” More specifically BPD is characterized by “a pervasive pattern of instability and hypersensitivity in interpersonal relationships, instability in self-image, extreme mood fluctuations, and impulsivity.” The symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder can pervasively interfere with an individual’s ability to function optimally in his or her daily life. Most commonly, BPD develops in early adulthood, often with more severe symptoms occurring in the early stages of onset

BPD Triggers & Risk Factors

A trigger, in the context of BPD typically refers to something that precipitates the exacerbation of one’s BPD symptoms. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains “triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk.” While BPD triggers can vary from person to person, there are some types of triggers that are more common in BPD, such as the following examples:

  • Perceived or real abandonment
  • Rejection of any kind
  • Loss of a job
  • Locations that invoke negative memories
  • Reminders of traumatic events
  • Ending a relationship

Many borderline personality disorder triggers arise from interpersonal distress. When it comes to understanding the specific cause of this disease, there is no solitary scientific reason behind why an individual develops borderline personality disorder. Rather there are several contributing factors that have been recognized as possibly playing a role in its development, potentially increasing one’s susceptibility to BPD. These factors may include, but are not limited to the following, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health

  • Genetics: people with a family history (e.g., parent, sibling, etc.) with BPD may be at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder. Psychology Today assert that BPD is approximately five times more common among people with close biological relatives with BPD. 
  • Environmental factors: growing up in an unstable, neglectful, and/ or abusive environment could increase one’s risk for developing BPD. 
  • Brain factors: some studies have indicated that individuals diagnosed with BPD have structural and/ or functional abnormalities, specifically in the areas of the brain that reign emotional regulation and impulse control. Furthermore, deviations from typical serotonin (hormone that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) production could increase one’s vulnerability to BPD. 

Although the above factors may contribute to the development of BPD, exposure to one or more risk factors does not indicate an individual will inevitably to go on to develop borderline personality disorder. Since the root of borderline personality disorder remains unknown, it is impossible to isolate a single cause that accurately and universally explains its development.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

The Most Serious Eating Disorder

eating disorder

Eating disorders are defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions.” There are several different types and each are recognized as chronic psychological conditions listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. The pervasive symptoms associated with any type of eating disorder can cause adverse physiological consequences and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in daily life. Still, anorexia, formerly known as anorexia nervosa, is recognized as the most dangerous type of eating disorder because of its high mortality rate. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health assert that twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will die prematurely due to complications related to their eating disorder.

Anorexia

Anorexia is characterized by “an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” Though anorexia can manifest at any age, experts suggests it most commonly develops during adolescence. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) point to specific risk factors that can increase one’s propensity for developing anorexia, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Dieting and starvation: habitual dieting to the point of starvation can increase a one’s potential for developing anorexia. Studies have shown that starvation impacts one’s brain functioning and one’s ability to make rational decisions. In turn, restrictive eating behaviors are perpetuated and returning to healthy/ normal eating habits become increasingly difficult.
  • Genetics: Individuals with familial history of anorexia and/ or other eating disorders put certain people at higher risk of developing anorexia.
  • Transitions: emotional stress resulting from various life transitions (e.g., new school, move, death of a loved one, etc.) can increase the risk of anorexia.
  • Peer influence: teens going through puberty and adolescence face hormonal changes, increased peer pressure, and often internalize criticisms about appearance, which can put teenagers at a higher risk for anorexia. 

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Further, it is considered one of the most lethal psychiatric disorders, carrying a sixfold increased risk of death. 

Signs and Symptoms

Everyone is unique, and as such, an individual struggling with anorexia will present with a distinct set of signs and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic does, however, provide examples of common signs and symptoms associated with anorexia, some of which may include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following:

  • Thin appearance
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme weight loss
  • In adolescents: not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Dizziness and/ or fainting
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Dry and/ or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration

Certain behavioral warning signs may be exhibited by an individual struggling with anorexia such as skipping meals, over-exercising, obsessively reading nutritional information, constantly weighing themselves, regularly making excuses not to eat, denial of a problem despite excessive weight loss, and more. Individuals diagnosed with anorexia engage in a cycle of self-starvation that often results in severe malnutrition including a lack of essential minerals and nutrients. When an individual with anorexia becomes severely malnourished, every organ in his or her body can suffer irreparable damage, and without proper treatment anorexia can be life-threatening. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

What Qualifies As Having An Eating Disorder?

eating-disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines eating disorders as “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behavior.” There are several different types of eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that are broadly characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. Constantly engaging in weight loss and diets that involve severely restricting food intake to the point of continued hunger can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. This way of eating can not only cause adverse effects to one’s energy levels, but it can also impact one’s physical health as it prohibits one’s ability to extract and absorb the needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are innately sourced from consuming food. The different types of eating disorders include: 

    • Anorexia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss and/ or lack of appropriate wait gain in growing children, an inability to maintain an appropriate body weight for one’s age, height, stature, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body image (weight and/ or shape). People struggling with anorexia will employ extreme efforts to control their weight and/ or shape, which can significantly interfere with their ability to properly function in their daily life. 
    • Bulimia nervosa: is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of overeating (bingeing) and compensatory behaviors (purging) in attempts to undo the effects of the binge eating episodes. Purging could include self-induced vomiting, excessively over exercising, and/ or abusing diuretics. 
    • Binge-eating disorder (BED): is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsively eating abnormally large quantities of food (often quickly) to the point of physical discomfort, without engaging in compensatory behaviors. Often binge episodes are followed with emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and/ or distress. 
    • Rumination disorder: is an eating disorder characterized by repeatedly and unintentionally regurgitating (spitting up) undigested or partially digested food from the stomach, chewing it again and either swallowing it or spitting it out. 
  • Avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID): is an eating disorder characterized by restricting food intake (e.g., eating smaller amounts) and/ or eliminating certain groups to the point of infringing on one’s exposure to and ability to absorb needed nutrients coming from food. 

Eating disorders can be debilitating and can adversely affect a person’s emotions, health, and interfere with one’s ability to adequately function in his or her daily life. 

Signs and Symptoms

Every person is unique and will exhibit a distinct set of signs and symptoms as they relate to the presence of an eating disorder. Furthermore, the type of eating disorder an individual struggles with can influence the signs and symptoms experienced. The Mayo Clinic provides a list of examples of behaviors that could be indicative of an eating disorder, some of which include the following: 

  • Obsessively focusing on healthy eating
  • Skipping meals 
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Adhering to an overly restrictive diet 
  • Preparing separate meals when eating in a group instead of eating what everyone else is eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Constantly checking the mirror and/ or pointing out perceived flaws
  • Using laxatives, herbal weight loss products, and/ or dietary supplements
  • Regularly excusing oneself during meals to use the restroom
  • Eating in secret
  • Expressing disgust, shame, and/ or guilt about one’s eating habits

The combination, severity, and duration of symptoms is influenced by the type of eating disorder present as well as the individual. If left untreated, continued malnutrition that occurs with an untreated eating disorder can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. Although eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment and support, a person can learn to effectively manage its symptoms.

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

Back to top